Written by Darran Messem, Head of Transport and Sustainable Development
Delivering the UK Government’s targets for emission reduction and electric vehicle (EV) uptake depends on addressing three key challenges, according to a panel of EV experts at an event hosted by Madano on 18th July.
Huge steps have been taken in the decarbonisation and electrification of the UK fleet, but there is much more to be done to (1) stimulate the demand side, (2) secure clearer and longer-term policy from Government and (3) increase automotive and energy cross-sector alignment to deliver the grid flexibility, capacity and reliability to enable large-scale EV adoption. Here we look at the first of these three challenges: stimulating the demand side.
The automotive industry has launched 13 fully-electric cars and over 20 plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles, and sales of plug-in vehicles have steadily climbed. The rate of growth however is nowhere near fast enough to deliver the UK Government’s 2040 and 2050 objectives for ending the sale of conventional engines and delivering zero emission transport. The successes on the supply side need to be matched on the demand side by encouraging new attitudes towards mobility, improving information, and enabling pent-up demand to be fulfilled.
Addressing range anxiety and stimulating demand is not just a function of battery capacity and efficiency. Five key recharging requirements need addressing:
- Interoperability and reliability of recharging must emulate the system compatibility and reliability of the conventional petrol station.
- Strategic recharging infrastructure is needed to fulfil long-distance needs.
- Better access to private charging facilities is required to build confidence and a sense of control.
- Optimising the network is necessary to put recharging facilities where they are required.
- Better information provision on recharging availability is required to build both confidence in and access to recharging.
Stimulating demand through key multiplier effects in the market will need to play a more prominent role. The expert panel noted a number of good examples:
- Publicly accessible demonstration fleets like London’s taxi fleet, enabling people to experience an EV.
- Pockets of infrastructure development around charging stations, with cafes and shops, enabling best use of charge times.
- Seeding EV adoption, to stimulate the knock-on effect of wider EV uptake. The best advertising for EVs are existing EV drivers.
- Building critical mass enhances charging station reliability because of the scale economies of monitoring and maintenance.
Further extension of vehicle choice is needed to stimulate demand in line with EV targets. In particular the vehicle range needs to be extended beyond the conventional saloon and hatchback:
- Vans are a significant (and growing) source of emissions and because of short distance application are ideally suited for electrification.
- Sports utility vehicles are a popular and growing vehicle class which, due to their size and weight, tend to be higher-emission.
- The market leading brands, not wishing to point fingers, would make a significant impact by offering fully-electric and hybrid options.
Better information, more appropriately provided, is needed to clarify vehicle choice and availability of recharging infrastructure, to clarify the capability of EVs, to demonstrate fitness for purpose, and to match vehicle to need:
- Better marketing: literature and advertising needs to provide the right information.
- Better selling: selling an EV is different to selling a conventional car. Unfamiliar technology opens new questions, from whether a portable electronic device will excessively deplete the vehicle’s battery, to addressing practical concerns about the likely long term costs of repair and servicing.
- Better business models: some, particularly new entrants to the automotive sector, may feel this warrants a completely new approach to sales and marketing, rather than the conventional showrooms and focus on selling units, and perhaps an accelerated move to mobility-as-a-service.
- Stimulating the used-car market will be necessary to pull EVs through the fleet, including better information about practical issues like maintenance, charging opportunities at destinations, comparisons between different used models, and easing end-of-life disposal.
Improved vehicle availability, both new and used, will be necessary to facilitate choice. Shortcomings in the supply chain need to be addressed. Waiting for a vehicle is inconsistent with the ‘one click way’ on-demand world being created by other retail sectors. Industrial strategy will need to move production to the UK to create a shorter supply chain. Manufacturers will invest in those countries with more certain and ambitious political goals.
A concluding remark from Madano, who convened the panel and the background research. We set out with this series of articles and panel discussion to explore the barriers to EV uptake and the role of communication. The discussion has highlighted a number of key barriers, ranging public policy through engineering practicality to consumer perception, and we observe that in all cases communication is key, because electric mobility requires whole system change, and this requires joined up thinking. Insight – communication – impact.
This blog is part 1 of a series of 3. Two further blogs will cover the discussion on clearer and longer-term policy, as well as automotive and energy cross-sector alignment.
Our expert panel (from Madano breakfast briefing event 18th July)
Madano is grateful to the expert panel who came together for this discussion and agreed to its write-up:
Angie Boakes, General Manager Electric Mobility, Royal Dutch Shell
Professor Paul Maropoulos, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Knowledge Exchange, Aston University
Evie Martell, Marketing Manager, Chargemaster
Huw Owen, Head of Digital, Tata Motors
Jay Parmar, Policy Director, BVRLA
Valerie Shawcross CBE, Transport for London Board Member, and Former Deputy Mayor of London for Transport (attending in a personal capacity)
Akshai Srinivasan, Electric Mobility Manager, BP
Peter Stephens, Head of External Affairs and Government Relations, Nissan
Sign up to Madano’s weekly summary of key developments in Artificial Intelligence
SIGN UP HERE
AI, diplomacy and a question of political philosophy
In an age where the traditional modes of diplomacy are open to question (see the empty desks at Trump’s state department), it’s not surprising that world powers are reconsidering their approach. The Times’s Beijing and Washington correspondents report that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is applying AI systems to assess risks to overseas investments. The systems are said to provide insight based on data from sources as diverse as satellite imagery and cocktail party chatter.
Didi Tang and Rhys Blakely’s article then leads, with the help of a Putin quote, into a discussion of the global competitiveness within AI as a transformative technology. It raises fears that the U.S. is at a disadvantage thanks to the lack of a coordinated government strategy akin to that of China. Could this be a test of economic philosophy and the efficacy of laissez-faire vs. collectivist systems in fostering innovation?
And speaking of global competition…
Thomas Macaulay at Techworld shared an interesting slideshow looking at how governments around the world plan to win in an AI arms race. It’s a neat reminder as we pat ourselves on the back for investment and innovation within the UK AI ecosystem, that this will be a highly competitive space globally. Slides 1 and 3 are where the rubber hits the road – UK’s strategy involves £1 billion in investment compared to China’s £113 billion. China has a population 20 times higher than that of the UK, but this investment differential is 113 times – that’s not great reading.
A sober and informed discourse
The Guardian’s U.S. edition shared an illuminating assessment of media hysteria surrounding AI and its negative impacts from freelance writer Oscar Schwartz. We’ve all heard this line before, but more interestingly Schwartz pivots to a bigger critique from Zachary Lipton, an assistant professor at the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, that social media is responsible for a lot of charlatans that are cluttering the debate and puffing up the hype cycle. Lipton suggests in the article that what the public needs is thoughtful debate about the most pressing issues, not the side-shows. “There are policymakers earnestly having meetings to discuss the rights of robots when they should be talking about discrimination in algorithmic decision making. But this issue is terrestrial and sober, so not many people take an interest,” he says in Schwartz’s article.
News in Brief:
Government kicks off Future of Mobility grand challenge
The Department for Transport and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles kicked off the Future of Mobility challenge amidst the torpor of the summer recess. As well as publishing its call for evidence, the Government emphasised the possible benefits of autonomous vehicles in eradicating the need for city centre parking and freeing up more community space.
Women in Innovation
InnovateUK also called for entries for its Women in Innovation Awards on Wednesday. £400,000 is available in funding for eight female entrepreneurs, plus mentoring opportunities. Entries need to focus on one of the Government’s four Grand Challenges, including AI and data.
Upcoming AI Events:
Written by Oliver Buckley, Senior Associate Director, Madano Energy
Last week BEIS published its latest data on energy production, consumption, prices and climate change.
DUKES (Digest of UK Energy Statistics) is an annual summary of some of the key developments in the UK energy system.
The main highlights of the energy industries’ contribution to the economy in 2017:
- 2.9% of GDP.
- 9.8% of total investment.
- 33.6% of industrial investment.
- 1.9% of annual business expenditure on research and development in 2016.
- 181,000 people directly employed (6.3% of industrial employment) and more indirectly (e.g. an estimated 142,000 in support of UK Continental Shelf production).
Isn’t energy more important?
Working with companies in the energy sector every day means I have a natural bias to follow energy news and at first glance, the energy industries’ contribution of just 2.9% of GDP feels very low. Energy is a topic that is often front page news and impacts the daily lives of every single person. Does this mean that energy isn’t that important to the UK economy?
Looking at the data in more detail provides some clues. The UK’s energy market has shifted dramatically in recent decades. In the early 1980s at their peak, energy industries contributed 10.4% of GDP, owing to the massive value of oil and gas extraction. Over time, as quantities of North Sea oil and gas have dwindled, and as investment has been redirected to renewables and other low-carbon sources particularly in the most recent decade, this percentage has steadily been coming down.
A more reassuring statistic is that energy investment comprises a healthy 10% of total investment. The energy sector is undergoing a fundamental shift with huge sums being put into R&D and new technologies in the push to decarbonise and digitise. A critical proof point is that big companies are pivoting – see how BP has acquired Lightsource and Chargemaster, a sign that they recognise the need to shift towards a low-carbon future featuring renewables and electric vehicles.
The biggest headline from the data, as picked up in various outlets including the UK’s most read newspaper The Sun, is that 50.1% of the UK’s electricity came from low carbon sources i.e. renewables plus nuclear. This beats the 45.6% registered in 2016. The share of renewables generation of all fuel types was also up in 2017 to 29.3% from 24.5% in 2016.
But what about my bills?
More low carbon generation is good news, however, what does this mean for consumer bills? Total domestic energy prices increased in 2017 in real terms by 1.9%, and for the period 2007-2017 real prices for domestic energy increased by 34%. This huge increase is to a large extent the result of the cost of subsidising renewable energy, which has been passed directly to the consumer.
With the UK Government planning to phase out subsidies for wind and solar, you might logically think that bills will fall. However, there are still fundamental challenges in integrating increasing levels of renewables into the UK’s grid system, necessitating other more traditional energy sources to still be readily available (at high cost). There are plenty of examples around the world where countries have ramped up investment to bring renewables onto the grid, expecting prices to fall, but instead those prices increased rapidly – just see the cases of South Australia and California. A blind assumption that more renewables lead to lower prices is a path to failure.
Optimistic outlook for UK plc
Whatever route we end up taking, we should take heart that UK investment in renewables is high. It’s an encouraging indicator of the low-carbon economy and shows that we’ve moved away from the times of simply taking dirty material from the ground and burning it. Energy impacts everybody every day and we have the power to design and benefit from a low-carbon future.
Madano is a fully integrated communications consultancy that specialises in advising clients in sectors where communications are critical to success. From energy and transport, to healthcare and technology – we would very much like to hear about your challenges and explore how we can help. Get in touch with me here.
Madano’s parent company, AVENIR GLOBAL, has acquired award-winning US-based public relations and communication company Padilla, with 210 employees in six offices across the United States and annual revenue of US$40 million.
Padilla will bring complementary sector expertise to our global network, including Food and Beverage, Agribusiness, Technology and Manufacturing. With close to 60 years’ experience in the industry, Padilla also includes brand consultancy Joe Smith, FoodMinds food and nutrition affairs and SMS Research Advisors.
Jean-Pierre Vasseur, President and CEO of AVENIR GLOBAL, noted upon the transaction’s closing, “When added to our SHIFT and AXON brands, our Firm’s clients can now rely on 330 experts in 8 cities across the United States to advise them on how to communicate and connect with the people that matter to them, in Boston, Richmond VA, Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Austin and San Francisco.”
For all of us within the network, the acquisition provides access to a whole new pool of colleagues to collaborate with on projects and draw expertise from, and opens the door to new client opportunities. It is part of AVENIR GLOBAL’s long-term growth strategy to diversify geographic reach, deepen our talent pool and expand our service offering.
Read AVENIR GLOBAL’s news release to find out more details on the transaction.
Welcome to the family, Padilla!